Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri released a film on naxalism-Maoism — Buddha in a traffic jam — in 2016. However, while working on the film, he faced many hurdles. According to him, post-release too, he didn’t find much support from the film industry.
Agnihotri was then approached by publishers to write a book on his experiences. So in Urban Naxals, published by Garuda Prakashan, Agnihotri looks at the larger picture of the foreign funding and how India’s educational institutes are the hotbeds of naxalism.
In Pune to launch the book, the former Marxist talks about the direct and indirect naxals in our midst and the agencies that foment this thought process.
Excerpts from the chat...
Can you tell us about your perspective on naxalism? Who is an urban naxal?
I have dedicated 10 years of my life to understand this issue. We were making a film on naxalism in jungles. While I was researching on the subject, I figured out there is a threat to the internal security of India from urban naxalism. In 2018, the naxals can’t be just operating from jungles because the government has become very tough on them. The demonetisation affected naxalites and their movement. Earlier, the funds that they got would be used in jungles. Now, they are sending the money to the cities and are running front organisations here.
Urban naxals have been funded with blood money, money coming in through extortions. They have been joined by labour, legal activists, media, intellectuals, historians, social media influencers and students. Their cadre stays in the hostels of central universities.
So an urban naxal is someone who is part of an organisation, directly or indirectly. Now, here is the problem. Those associated directly can be identified. The problem is these indirect people.
What happens usually is this: A bright, intelligent, inquisitive student joins a college. If he is a Dalit, or from deprived or disadvantaged section of society, he already has grievances against the social order. Then someone catches hold of him and uses him as a tool to create an atmosphere of chaos, conflict and anarchy.
Urban naxals are not against a particular party or a leader. People think that the naxalites are against Modi. That’s not true. They are waging a war against the State of India. And the result is that capital can’t be created; nation’s economy, productivity of the workforce are affected. Once students come into your fold, educational institutions too are hampered. It’s a long drawn process. These are the people I call urban naxals.
You faced a lot of hurdles while making Buddha in a traffic jam. And the book is based on the film.
Someone commissioned me to write a book on my experiences. When I started writing it, I realised that it’s the story about my life — what I experienced in this country, how I was a Marxist myself, how my professors used me, how I changed.
See, a stone pelter doesn’t really know how he is being manipulated. He might think that he is doing something great. But he has not realised how he has stopped the motor of the country.
The whole idea was to write about my experience of making the film. But I thought it needed a context and I shouldn’t just focus on myself. I thought I must put this theory on urban naxalism out in the market.
How did you become a naxal?
My professors used me. When you start college, you are raw, influenced by your professors; they talk of (Karl) Marx, give you Soviet’s (erstwhile Soviet Russia) propaganda literature. That’s what happened with me. In India, we have seen the growth of Lenin, Marx and Mao. Why? No other country follows their ‘isms’.
How did you get out of that influence?
Jiska koi nahi hota, uska khuda hota hai. I moved from MP to Delhi for my further studies. Later, I went to the US. I was exposed to more perspectives. I came back to India from US, so I have not been influenced by capitalism.
The one thing that I have learnt is that to become successful, your country cannot always be in a state of civil unrest. The naxals are anti-success people. They don’t want India to succeed. Their thoughts are influenced by the foreign funding they get. There is Communist money, Islamic money and even Capitalist money involved.
What are the issues of Naxals? Why are they going against the State of India?
A few select groups started the campaign that these chaps are working for the benefit of villagers. How? By blowing up roads, which the government is constructing. These intellectuals raise the issue of Kashmir. They say that India’s real problem is in Kashmir. That’s not true. Compare the statistics of people who die in Kashmir, our soldiers who die in the conflict and the forces which die in Red Corridor; the numbers of the latter are more. The Red Corridor is a mineral rich area. The forest area is huge. There is no industry in Kashmir.
But aren’t their concerns about the exploitation of tribals, the mining issue, legitimate? Don’t they need to be addressed?
In today’s time, I don’t think it’s legitimate.
Because there is no exploitation there. What is exploitation? Who’s exploiting? The government is constructing roads, schools. But you are using the schools to train your cadre, you blow up the hospitals. You kill a baby before his father by smashing his head, pulling out his intestines. Later you even kill the father and rape the mother. Tell me, how does the government exploit the adivasi? Why are we so anti-government?
Take an example, government has put waste bins everywhere. But you don’t put the litter in it. You throw it on the roads. How is government responsible for the kachra? You bribe the police for jumping the signal... and then say the police is corrupt. This is the Communist mentality. Blame the government for everything and get government to control society. I will say, let’s make our society strong, so that the government machinery depends on us.
Have you tried talking to these youth? Is there any alternative to the gun culture?
I have been speaking on these issues for sometime now. I have researched, worked hard to get the data, statistics, and talked to the public. What more can I do? At the end of it, I am a story teller, a filmmaker. So I have tried to make a film on this subject. Now, I have written a book. I invited Kavita Krishnan for a video interview. I told her, ‘You raise your point, I will raise mine. Let the public decide who is right.’
I want people to accept that this is the reality of our times. Everything cannot be seen as Dalit vs Brahmin issue. You can’t paint everything in one colour. This is the Soviet way of thinking. In India, we exploit socially. We hurt a Dalit; government doesn’t. We are not able to solve the issue because we have a Leftist narrative. There is no space for alternative narrative.
Which alternative narrative are you referring to here?
The Leftist narrative is an alternative narrative which has become the main narrative. The main narrative has to be a Hindu civilisational narrative. We are the only surviving civilisation in the world, besides China.
The problem is when we say Hindu civilisation, we are asked what about Muslims? But Muslims are a part of this civilisation. They are Hindus converted into Muslims and so have the Christians. The outsiders want to break this civilisation.
But Hindu civilisation is also about caste. That’s the real issue.
This is a false propaganda.
You just mentioned Dalit-Brahmin issue...
There are differences between Catholics and Protestants too. They also argue, fight. But they haven’t become violent. My point is that we have to take pride in our identity, but also respect other identities.